December 22, 2016 —
The idea of a small cell as a standalone structure serving one carrier was replaced in 2016 by large networks of small cells connected by miles and miles of fiber that serve multiple carriers and, therefore, make them economically feasible.
While the tower business was good for Crown Castle International in 2016, the majority of its capex went to its small cell business, which comprised 16,500 miles of fiber. Although small cells accounted for $385 million, or 12 percent, of annualized site rental revenues, it is obvious Crown Castle sees a bright future in them.
“We are as excited as we have ever been by the opportunities in small cells,” Jay Brown, Crown Castle CEO, said during an earnings call. “Our small cell conversations with the carriers have increasingly become more positive with the passage of time and we are seeing the business model of small cells play out very similarly to that of towers.”
Crown Castle illustrated that the economics of small cells depended on collocating multiple carriers on a network of fiber infrastructure threaded through the cities. In Denver, it has 17 miles of fiber connecting 65 tenant nodes on 26 poles. The system it has in Las Vegas consists of 36 miles of fiber supporting 77 tenant nodes on 77 poles.
Small Cells Take Hold Indoors
CommScope showed Sprint how to add coverage to small and medium-size businesses with small cells in May, enabling a turnkey wireless solution for both employees and visitors as part of Sprint’s network densification plan.
The market is ideal for small cells, according to Rod Gatehouse, CommScope vice president, product line management and marketing for small cells. Gatehouse was formerly with Airvana, which CommScope acquired in late 2015.
The commercial deployments showed that it made sense to combine LTE small cells with Wi-Fi antennas. Based upon Qualcomm FSM small cell and Qualcomm VIVE Wi-Fi chipsets, the S1000 supports both 2.5 GHz TD-LTE and 802.11ac dual-band, dual-concurrent Wi-Fi, allowing Sprint to provide managed Wi-Fi hotspot services to enterprises such as retail and restaurant chains.
Nokia, Telfonica Replace DAS with Small Cells in Chile Shopping Center
In May, Nokia and Telefónica Chile completed a small cell development in a six-floor, 551,000-square-foot shopping center in Santiago, Chile, the largest retail development in South America.
Nokia replaced and upgraded the existing DAS with high-capacity, high-coverage Flexi Zone small cells network. Nokia’s Flexi Zone small cell technology provides a cost-effective alternative to DAS, offering faster data speeds and supporting a higher number of subscribers. Ease of deployment and the ability to upgrade 3G small cells to 4G LTE will allow Telefónica Chile to scale capacity as customer demand continues to evolve.